Archive | May, 2013

#885 Pet Savings: Make Your Own Dog Biscuits

29 May

homemade dog biscuits

Homemade dog treats were faster and easier made than expected. Cheaper too.

Making my own dog biscuits turned out to solve two problems for me. First, how to keep my dog in treats and second, how to keep my daughter out of the dog food.

My dog is half-pig, half-dog. The breeder said so when we picked him up. (I know I advocate adoption, but the puppy adoption we wanted didn’t work out so we made the new dog owner mistake of paying lots of money for a pure breed puppy). Anyways, our puppy was the fattest puppy in the  litter. He was huge compared to his brothers and sisters. Because this dog has an appetite. If he doesn’t get treats he goes a little insane, so we like to satiate him a little with treats. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s not dog food from the bag.

My daughter loves everything dog. She has a huge collection of play dogs. We can get her to wear anything if it has a dog on it. She loves our real dog so much that she pretty much wants everything he has… his collar, his dog food, his dog treats. So to avoid having her demand dog food every time the dog eats his breakfast, I looked up dog biscuit recipes.

First, I tried a Bernard Clayton recipe in which he wrote that he wanted a dog biscuit that was tasty for dogs and humans. My dog would not eat them. Did I mention this dog is half-pig? He eats everything. The fact that he refused a dog treat was a little mind-blowing. Sorry, Bernard Clayton, your recipe failed the tasty-to-dogs test.

So I created my own dog biscuit recipe, which you can find here. And here are video instructions.

The dog biscuit recipe been tested on multiple dogs and multiple toddlers. Everyone loves them. Turns out other parents have the same issue with their toddlers eating their dog’s food and treats. I was embarrassed at first to admit that my daughter had this penchant for all things dog, including food. But then she started sharing her homemade biscuits with friends, and the parents admitted to the same problem.

I was doubtful of the cost savings of making my own dog biscuits, so I did out the numbers. Turns out the materials are cheaper by cents per pound than generic brands, but by dollars per pound than premium brands. And I’m sure the homemade product is far superior to even premium brand dog treats. I decided it was worth it to me to make my own dog biscuits for the 20 active minutes time it takes to make them because I was assured that the product was safe and palatable not only for my dog, but for my kid. Dog food has not been immune to tainting by food poisoning bacteria and other unsafe materials, so if I can provide a safe alternative I would rather do that. I know everything that goes into the biscuits is fresh, safe and tasty. Plus, it’s a fun activity that my daughter and I usually do on the weekend. I’ve been even known to sample a few of the final product.

To make the recipe even cheaper than store options, you can substitute whole wheat flour for rye flour. Rye flour lends a nice flavor that might be lost on dog-only consumption.

#886 Pet Savings: Adopt A Pet

28 May

adopted kitten

Caution: Cuteness ahead. Photo via flickr by Pargon.

Your first expense when you decide to get a pet will be purchasing said pet. If you’re looking at getting a goldfish and a bowl then the expenses aren’t going to be great, but when it comes to cats and dogs, pedigreed pets can run anywhere from $500 to $1,000. While adopting a pet is not free, it will be significantly less than buying from a breeder. And many pets for adoption are pure breed and pedigreed.

Adoption costs run from $100 to $350 depending on the cat or dog, which is a fraction of the breeder price. Adoption costs cover spaying and neutering, shots, a clean bill of health from the vet and any foster care expenses. So the fee is a fair estimate of what it cost the shelter or adoption service to bring the pet into your home.

Whether you are a cat or dog person will determine what you get, but here are some thoughts on both cats and dogs. And thoughts on other pets.

Cats and kittens:

  • Cheaper than dogs to adopt, cats and kittens are plentiful in shelters. Spring and summer is high kitten season. Other times of the year it might be harder to find a kitten to adopt. Lots of older cats from are also available for adoption. Either option is great as kittens and cats come already housebroken. They somehow just know how to use the litter box or go outside. All they need is a little love for a lot of reward. My family and I have adopted  many cats over the years with no issues.
  • Pedigree doesn’t matter. While pedigree does determine the relative personality of a dog, all cats pretty much act like cats… With slight variances in friendliness or leave-me-aloneness, which is usually affected by upbringing from the kitten stage. A well-loved and handled kitten will be a friendlier cat than one that was left alone. After 8-12 weeks of age, the more a cat is left alone, the less it will like people or be cuddly. This is based on personal upbringing and observation of many cats not scientific study, but I think it’s pretty accurate. A pedigreed cat makes no sense to me when all cats and kittens look cute and cuddly no matter what. There are pedigreed, older cats available for adoption, who may very well have been well loved for a long time.
  • You can get a cat or kitten for free if you find an abandoned cat or kittens. This however is a tough situation because they have not been vetted for health like in a shelter and are not spayed or neutered. Both vet bills and spaying or neutering would add up. You’re better off taking a stray to the closet shelter. Or the vet. Both can check for microchips to find the owner, and let you know about its health. Abandoned cats and dogs can have serious issues with worms, mites and fleas. If you want to adopt the cat, you can arrange it with the shelter.
  • You should always spay or neuter. Unless you are a breeder, you should spay or neuter your cat or kitten before you have a litter of surprises on your hands. Male cats are territorial if they are not fixed.
puppies for adoption

Looking at puppies to adopt is hazardous to your heart. Photo via flickr by jeffreyw.

Dogs and puppies:

  • Puppies might be harder to find for adoption in certain areas. There are some areas of the world that are overflowing with stray puppies, and some areas where you can’t find a stray animal anywhere. In the US, Southern states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have large overflows of strays. In places like the Northeast, where there are fewer strays, adoption agencies will bring puppies up from the southern states for adoption. In Europe, places like Italy, Spain and Romania have large volumes of strays and agencies in less stray-prone countries work to bring in puppies for adoption. If you are adopting by bringing a puppy from a high stray area to a low stray area, then the costs will be greater because of transport and care. But if you are set on getting a puppy versus an older dog, this may be the only way to get a puppy age dog.
  • Pedigreed dogs are plentiful. The benefit of adopting an older dog is not only that they’ll most likely already be trained, house broken and socialized, but many are pedigreed with papers from families who bought the dog only to give it up later. If you are set on a certain breed there are breed specific rescue agencies that place pure breed dogs with adoptive families. You can Google the breed’s name along with the word rescue to find breed-specific rescue agencies and opportunities. Most dogs will be from 6 months old to several years old. Pedigrees in dogs will guarantee a certain trajectory of behavior, energy level and other traits.
  • Dogs require a lot more work than cats. Cats mostly get put up for adoption because an older person dies and leaves a cat behind or a move requires the cat to be placed somewhere else. Dogs however are given up for adoption because the family or individual who originally bought the dog did not realized how much work a dog is. Or how rambunctious they are. Or they don’t like their kids get knocked over by the dog. This is all because a dog requires way more hands on training, exercise and attention than a cat. Make sure you’re ready for the dog commitment before adopting a dog.

Both dogs and cats:

  • Mutts are healthier. Usually mixed breeds for cats and dogs are healthier because pedigrees have been interbred, resulting in the desired trait as well as a host of potential health problems. Mixed breeds often avoid these pure bred problems because their gene pool is more varied.
  • Pets are always a commitment. Financially, cats and dogs are a commitment that has to be consciously made. Make sure you have the resources to care for and feed your pet. They don’t need a lot but it is an expense. In terms of lifestyle, getting a pet means you’re committing for their life span. Changing apartments or houses if you are a renter should be considered carefully as many places do not accept pets. If behavior problems arise, it is your responsibility to address the issue constructively, not by just getting rid of the animal.

Other types of pets:

  • Guinea pigs, parrots and other pets besides cats and dogs are available to adopt. It might be a bit more rare to find a non-dog or cat to adopt, but it does happen. If you are looking for a pet that is not a dog or cat, it is worth seeing if a shelter has what you’re looking for.
  • Exotic pets are not a good idea. Pets that have been bred for domesticity are fine. Exotic pets are quite a challenge and should not be considered. They are wild animals with special needs. Many are nocturnal, unfriendly and invasive if released in the wild. The Everglades in Florida are being devastated by pythons that were released by owners who didn’t want them after they grew too big or escaped from exotic pet providers. Steer clear of exotic pets.

#887 Spend Your Money Like A Person Of Substance

24 May

woman smiling

What makes you happy in the long term? Photo via flickr by Worldizen.

When I say person of substance I mean someone who is not putting on a show, trying to make a good impression or interested in superficial matters. I mean someone who is comfortable with him or her self and truly an honorable person. Like someone who would speak up when he or she sees something wrong when everyone else is walking by. Like someone who does something for other people because it makes them feel good. Like someone who would give his or her coat to a homeless person on a cold night because he or she is going somewhere warm.

The person of substance sees what the honorable thing to do is and tries to do it. Why spend your money like a person of substance would?  Here are some reasons why:

  • Stuff doesn’t matter. When you meet people of substance, any stuff they have seems secondary to anything else in their lives. Yeah, they may have a cool gadget or the latest something, but it’s because it was related to another interest or they acquired it without any to-do. They don’t parade their stuff around. If they don’t have something that everyone else has or wants, it doesn’t bother them. They get stuff because it’s related to something more meaningful in their lives, not because everyone else says they should have it.
  • They don’t spend money to have fun. They know that relationships, enjoying small things in life and helping others are all more rewarding then any other activity. And many times those things don’t cost anything at all. Think about the a time when you were absolutely the happiest you can remember. Did it involve a shopping spree? Probably not.
  • They can take fads or leave them. They don’t chase every new thing that comes along on TV, in stores or online. They enjoy the ones they like and leave the ones they don’t.
  • You wouldn’t know if they were a millionaire or middle class. The person of substance is so genuine that money and stuff doesn’t seem to enter into the equation. Like the librarian who lives simply and dies, leaving millions to a charity. Or the wealthy man’s daughter who has a regular job and a modest apartment so that everyone exclaims “you wouldn’t know she was rich!”

Next time you buy something think about what it means to you, why you are buying it and what it will add to your life. The more you think about your life, the more you will realize what you value. And what you value may very well turn out not to be material things. Or in other words, you are a person of substance.

#888 Manage Your Money Like A Corporation

23 May

coca-cola logo

How do you succeed financially? Take a cue from corporations.

Corporations may be cast as callous and impersonal, but they sure do know how to manage money. In fact, their bottom line is the bottom line. The question corporations want answered is: Is there a profit or a deficit? If the corporation is successful, it means it is making money and growing it’s capital. Sounds good to me. So if money, not people are the important, let’s not hate corporations, but learn from them.

A little more corporate ruthlessness for personal finances is not a bad thing. Take the good part of corporate money management and improve your bottom line.

Here are some thoughts about managing your money like a corporation:

  • Budget. O.K. if you read this blog regularly, you’re probably tired of hearing this one. But no company operates without a budget. You shouldn’t either. It’s really not that hard. So companies have the accounting department to take care of tracking it, but most people either see a budget or have to submit numbers for it on a yearly basis. So start doing it for yourself and learn to be your own accounting department.
  • Cash flow. Cash flow is different from a budget because it tells you what is leftover after all your expenses. So your income minus your expenses leaves your net cash flow. Everyone including corporations want positive cash flow, meaning you have something left over after expenses. Negative cash flow means you’re living beyond your means. It would mean death for a corporation if it continued to have negative cash flow year after year. Make sure your budget results in positive cash flow, which can then be invested, saved or otherwise used to improve your financial outlook.
  • Monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. If you are tracking your budget and cash flow, then you’ll already be generating regular reports to see if your finances are on track for the year. If something gets out of hand (why are my gas expenses twice what is budgeted therefore making my cash flow smaller?), you’ll be able to catch it and correct it sooner rather than later.
  • Are you in the black or red? Everyone want to be in the black (profit) the majority of the time. Being in the red (deficit) is only acceptable for short periods of time for extraordinary circumstances or expenses. Ruthlessly pursue being in the black like corporations do.
  • Get your shareholders on board. Who are your shareholders? Your spouse. Your kids. Your partner. Anyone affected by your financial decisions. Make sure everyone is on board with the financial plan and outlook so they don’t get unhappy and dump your stock. Good lessons can be learned by all.
  • Try a Board of Directors. I’ve heard this suggested a couple times, and it’s an interesting idea if it works for you. Certain financial and life decisions, which always have financial impact, are difficult and very emotionally charged. If you meet people in life who are thoughtful, and you value their input but they are not close friends, ask them to be on your personal Board of Directors. This means when there is a major and tough life decision, you can present your proposal to the Board members, and they can yay or nay the project based on whether it makes sense to them. The process of seeking impartial opinion and putting together a concrete proposal will help sort out all the numbers, reduce emotional motivations and make the move strategically more clear. Family members and close friends are usually not good choices because they are too emotionally biased or have their own motivations for a certain outcome. Old bosses, networking contacts or casual but respected acquaintances would work.

See, all personal finances can benefit from a little corporatization.

#889 Treat Your Money Like A Wealthy Business Person

22 May

warren buffett

Warren Buffett has lived in the same house since 1958. Photo via flickr by Art Comments.

If you’re dedicated to being thrifty, then you’re well down the path to treating your money and resources like a wealthy business person. First off, successful, wealthy individuals have budgets. When you have a lot of money, you want to know where it is, where it’s going and where it’s coming from. Second, they’re thrifty. Many successful business people have modest homes, cars, limited cash on hand and bargain shop. Don’t think they don’t have a shopping list and stick to it.

Here are some more ideas that you may or may not be practicing that successful (and rich) business people use to become successful, stay successful and pass the formula for success onto their children:

      •  Improve yourself and your knowledge. In no way does learning ever stop. Not after high school. Not after college. Not after you retire. Reading new material and constantly seeking information is a great way to improve yourself and your knowledge. And it’s not only reading related to your industry or interest. Some of the best advice I got from someone in order to do my job better as a fundraiser, which involved a lot of cocktails and small talk, was to read one magazine or source of information totally unrelated to my interests per month. Like picking up an copy of Cycling magazine and reading it cover to cover.  It’s shocking how quickly the material becomes relevant in ways you never imagined. Reading and getting info on your own industry will do nothing but help you on a daily basis. Reading in your own industry and interests is easier and less daunting than picking something you initially care nothing about.
      • Rely on other people’s strengths.

        Photo via flickr by buddawiggi.

        This means valuing relationships and identifying other people’s strengths and how they can complement your weaknesses or areas in which you have no knowledge but need someone who does have knowledge. You can’t do everything yourself. Surround yourself with good people, and you’ll reap the rewards. Whether you’re building a team to work with or hiring a babysitter, relationships will make your life easier if you pick the right people and cultivate the relationship to ensure reciprocal benefit and enjoyment. For lots of people the word “networking” strikes fear into their hearts. Networking means building positive relationships and staying in touch – even if it’s only twice a year to say “Happy Birthday” and “Happy New Year.” Those relationships will come into play and reward you throughout your life.

      • Set goals. Goals usually mean physical goals versus monetary goals… Make eight more sales calls per month. Write a blog post per day. Finish a Masters by the end of the year… Instead of make $10,000 more by the end of the year or $1,000 more by the end of the month. The goals will move along and are achievable because you are in charge of pursuing the completion of the goal. Life satisfaction will follow, and most likely the money as well.
      • Treat every decision like an investment.
        money bills

        Photo via flickr by sushi♥ina.

        Ask “What is the benefit?” “What am I getting out of it?” “Is it worth it?” “If I do this then how does it affect everything else in terms of time, money and other resources?” Business people are very talented at looking at the cost-benefit of decisions when it comes to their investments, including time.

      • Keep innovating. This does not mean only coming up with big ideas or groundbreaking ideas to cash in on. This does mean thinking about how to do things that you already do better or really well. A lot of successful people have built their success on doing something ordinary really well. This means always thinking and always innovating, even if it means on the same old thing.
      • Numbers don’t lie. When it comes down to it, statistics and numbers are a powerful tool to use to help you analyze a situation and make a decision or change your course of action. Business people don’t just make a decision based on a feeling, it has to be a feeling backed up with numbers or evidence that make any kind of sense.
      • Think strategically. Not everything is a huge gain. Small gains accumulate over time for a large gain or to lead to a large gain. The small moves are part of the larger game.
      • Learn from failure. In the game, there will be failures. Wealthy people often have failed more than the average middle class citizen, which makes sense if successful business people are putting themselves out ahead of everyone else more in their quest to succeed. But wealthy business people learn from their failures in order to hone their way of doing things until success becomes almost inevitable.
      • It’s cheaper to walk away sooner. If things don’t feel right, it’s much cheaper to way away sooner and leave a deal on the table. Unfortunately, how this applies to most middle class citizens is marriage. Walking away before getting married is way cheaper than going through a divorce, both financially and emotionally. So don’t let hurting feelings, wanting to go through with it because you said you would or any other reason keep you from walking away from a deal that doesn’t seem right. Not buying a house, not getting married or not going in on any financial commitment is better if it doesn’t feel right then suffering the financial fallout, which always includes emotional fallout as well. Business people know to walk away.
      • Stay healthy. Being healthy is often associated with being wealthy. Because when something goes wrong, the wealthy can afford the best care or care at all. But a large part of being healthy is preventative care, which anyone can afford. Exercising, eating well, not incurring health and financial costs associated with being overweight are all preventive measures anyone can take. If you stay healthy, you can mimic the good body and mind care of the wealthy. Good health insurance plays a part when something does go wrong. Sadly, the poor and middle class lose out big time on this in the United States.

I originally was going to say treat your money like a wealthy person, but there are all kinds of wealth. Inherited wealth, suddenly acquired wealth, hard won wealth… the most pertinent is the wealth of successful business people because they have actively become successful (or continued to be successful if inherited wealth was a part) and have healthy money habits that allow them to continue being a successful business person. It’s really much easier than you think. All of these suggestions are good for you no matter what.

#890 Think About Your Money Like A Kid

21 May

baby playing

Mom and Dad couldn’t resist this toddler’s request for money.

She said it clearly with an expectant look on her face – “Money.” She had never said the word before. I thought maybe I had misheard. But she repeated it – “money” – with the same expectant look on her face.

Yikes! The kid’s not yet two, and she’s asking me for money. Clearly this toddler expected to receive some money. While I was scraping my jaw off the floor in shock after my child’s first request for money, my husband was dancing around with her. He was ecstatic at her growing vocabulary, impressed with her demand and handing her $1 from his wallet.

“Money, money, money,” my daughter repeated, clutching her dollar bill.

“We’ll have to save it, and you can buy something with your money when you go shopping with Mommy,” I said.

She and Daddy found an acceptable stash spot for safekeeping until the weekend. Come Saturday, which is shopping day, she requested her dollar and retrieved it from her piggy bank.

Now that she was requesting money and receiving some. I’d have to show her how to use her money responsibly.

one dollar bill

What can you get for $1?

“You have one dollar,” I told her. “Whatever you can find for your dollar, you can buy. Something you want. But it has to be a dollar because that’s all you have.”

I dreaded trying to find something for $1 (what about tax?). So we made a stop at Goodwill. I knew they had lots of $0.99 kid items. With my 10% discount card, it would take care of the tax question.

My daughter found a pack of Crayola washable markers and immediately said, “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,” and clutched the package tightly to indicate that this was it. No need to look further. And it was the on sale color of the week, meaning it was 50% off of the marked $0.99 price. This girl could already spot a deal. I was proud. With my discount card, the markers were $0.47.

I had her get her dollar from her pocket and hand it to the cashier. She parted with the money in exchange for the markers with no protest, much to my relief. I told her the change was hers to keep.

As we progressed through grocery shopping, I had promised to get her a dog coloring book to go with her markers. “Wouldn’t it be nice if she could get it on her own instead,” I thought. We shuffled through the whole coloring book display to find the coloring book with only dogs. The last one left had a box cutter slash through the cover from when the stock clerk had opened the box. It was $1. I saw how this could work.

“Here’s the coloring book. Mommy will bargain so you can buy it with your money,” I told her.

At the register, I used my usual friendly and casual mention (with a hint of concern) to point out the box cut cover.

“I’ll mark it down to $0.50,” said the cashier.

Score! At $0.53 for the coloring book and $0.47 for the markers, it was exactly $1 for my daughter’s first purchase. No extra money from Mommy, just a little bargaining help to compensate for her limited vocabulary. I’ll never be so lucky again. But the whole process got me to thinking about how I thought about money when I was a kid, and how I want to teach my daughter responsible money habits.

Here are kid thoughts on money that would help anyone:

  •  The money you have is it. There is a $1 in your hand. There are lots of items out there that you want but only the items that are $1 are available to you to buy. No credit, no extra indulgences. Pick an item that matches up with the money in your pocket, and you’re done. This is perfect for daily purchases and everyday necessities.
  • Put the money away for safekeeping. You don’t spend your money right away. You put it in a safe place and retrieve it when you’re ready to buy what you want. You wait patiently. Occasionally you can take a peek at the money to make sure it’s still there. But no touching it until it’s time to spend it.
  • You can spend or save. You have money. You can choose to spend it, or save it. If you spend it, you don’t have any money left. If you save it, you can get something bigger once your money accumulates. Or you can keep saving like a squirrel storing nuts, planning for the long winter.
  • You have to earn your own. Even if parents give you money, it has to be earned. For chores, for working a “real” job or, when you’re not quite two, for impressing your parents with your vocabulary.

I can see a whole thesis being born based on this philosophy. All I needed to know about money, I learned in preschool…

#891 Reuse Ziploc Bags

17 May

brownies in ziploc bag

Photo via flickr by quinn.anya.

This is one of those things my mom did that I swore I would never do. But then I hated to throw out a Ziploc bag that was perfectly useable. And I hated even more to run out of Ziploc bags when I was in the middle of trying to throw something in the freezer. So once I was the one cleaning up the kitchen and freezing food, I started to reuse Ziploc bags. Something I really disliked before suddenly seemed like a great idea. An added bonus is that it saves money by significantly reducing how often you buy Ziploc bags.

Here are some ideas for reusing Ziploc bags to save money and reduce trash output:

  • Get the good kind. If you’re going to be reusing bags, the good brands are sturdier and will endure more washing and re-washing. Generic brands tend to be flimsy and thin. Neither Ziploc or Glad zip bags have BPA so that is not a concern with re-use.
  • Only get the large ones.
    sandwich bento box

    Go reusable for sandwiches and lunch items instead of wasting money on sandwich bags. Photo via flickr by

    Limit purchasing Ziplocs to gallon and quart sizes, which are great for freezing and storing food. Use a reusable, plastic sandwich saver or Tupperware container for sandwiches. Sandwich bags are a waste of money and resources. Plus your sandwich will never be crushed in your lunch bag if it’s in a hard plastic container. When using the large bags for food storage and freezing, limit your use by using a more durable, reusable container if possible. Ziplocs are ideal for freezing chicken breasts and fruit or keeping fresh an open bag of chips.

  • Mark the bags. Most large Ziploc bags come with a spot where you can write on them. Write down the contents and date it with a permanent marker. When you wash the bag, use the bag for the same item again and re-date. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use a bag used for chicken for cereal, so I avoid cross-contamination skeevies by reusing chicken Ziplocs for chicken. It’s easiest to reuse Ziplocs used for bread or dry good storage because if the product was in a bag, the Ziploc might just need an quick, dry wipe out to reuse.
  • Wash and dry properly. To really get a good clean, make sure the bags are turned inside out, and the Ziplocs get a good hot water and soap scrub. Inside out bags can also go in the dishwasher. Now for drying, they can be hung clothes line style in your kitchen or on your clothes line with the open bag end down so the inside and outside are aired out. Make sure the bags are well opened so they can dry thoroughly. If I need one right away, I will get a fresh dish or hand towel and pat dry.
  • Know when to throw them out. I think why I hated my mom’s version of Ziploc reuse is that she continued to reuse them well past when they were done in. If the seams are ripping or the bags are irreparably greasy (bacon and tomato sauce are the worst), then throw the bags out or recycle them if your waste disposable accepts them for recycling.

Happy saving!

#892 Don’t Get Rid Of Dead Batteries

15 May


Photo via flickr by Matti Mattila.

I have to admit this one came out of desperation… and then I realized it actually worked. When the battery or batteries die in a remote, toy or appliance, don’t assume the batteries are totally dead. Instead I put the “suspected” dead batteries into a zip lock bag to save for later use. What can these “suspected” dead batteries be used for? Items that don’t need much juice can use a battery that otherwise doesn’t “work.”

I started using suspected dead batteries in my wireless mouse. Turns out a wireless mouse uses very little power and can use the charge left in a battery that otherwise doesn’t power other items. I’ve run my mouse on “dead” batteries for a month or more. Once I use up my not-really-dead battery in my wireless mouse, I then put the “really” dead batteries in a separate zip lock bag for later recycling.

call2recycle logoNow when I’m caught with no fresh batteries in the house, I have a store of “suspected” dead batteries to try out. After success using the batteries in my wireless mouse, I started testing the suspected dead batteries in toys and other items before using new, fresh batteries. More often than not, the batteries will work. Sometimes for a longer time than others, but at least I get a little more life out of them. Other times, if a full set of suspected dead batteries doesn’t power the item, I’ll put in one or two fresh batteries (usually because I don’t actually have the correct amount of batteries needed) and one or two suspected dead batteries, and presto, it works! If I’m mixing and matching, I mark the non-fresh batteries so I know that when the item needs new batteries to only switch out the older one or two batteries instead of all three or four.

Getting the longest life possible out of a battery means spending less on new pack of batteries. Other ideas to save money on batteries include:

  • Buy generic. Tests by companies who test that rid of stuff show that generic batteries work just as well or better than more expensive brands. If the expensive brand does last a bit longer, the price difference does not make up for the performance difference.
  • Get rechargeable batteries. The electric cost to recharge batteries is much less than spending on disposable batteries and it reduces battery waste. Rechargeable batteries can be used many times over.
  • Keep batteries cool. Keeping batteries in the fridge, especially in hot climates can help extend the life of the battery. It’s a small amount, but if you’re storing batteries, why not keep them in the fridge to make sure they last as long as possible.
  • Take the batteries out. If you’re not using the item all the time or use it only seasonally, take the batteries out of the item when not in use.

Whatever you do, don’t throw batteries away! The chemicals they leak into landfills are serious contaminants. They should always be recycled. While this can be a challenge sometimes, Radio Shack or other electronic stores may have a recycling program if your local waste disposal does not recycle batteries. For rechargeable batteries and cell phones, look up a drop off service from Call2Recycle. You should always recycle your dead cell phones and laptop batteries as well.

#893 Put A Hold On Toilet Flushing

14 May

fresh water

Be a good fresh water steward, use less water at the toilet. Photo via flickr by Corey Leopold.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow… If you live in a dry or drought area, you’re probably familiar with the waste of fresh water to flush toilets, and the cost to flush every time you use the bathroom. It’s not just a monetary cost, but the strain on the water table and fresh water resources costs as well.

Old toilets can use as many as four to seven gallons of water per flush, more water than an average citizen in many parts of the world would use per day. Newer toilets do a bit better with one and half to three gallons per flush. Either way, limiting flushes reduces fresh water waste and saves money. At pennies a time, the big savings would occur over a lifetime, but small savings per year also accumulate. Not only does saving fresh water by reducing flushing save money on the water bill, but it also helps with the future outlook of limited water resources.


Don’t flush your money down the toilet. Photo via flickr by Titanas.

While water is not expensive currently, many speculate it could become the next oil, a treasured and expensive commodity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American households spend about $2 per 1,000 gallons, and $474 on water and sewage charges per year. The EPA estimates the average American uses 90 gallons of water per day, while a European uses 53 gallons and a sub-Saharan citizen uses three to five gallons a day. A single person saving three flushes per day could save seven gallons of water per day (calculating average flush use of four gallons of water) or 49 gallons per week or 2,548 gallons per year, which would be just over $4.50 per year saved. Multiply that by a family of four, and the savings increase to $18 a year or $324 for 18 years of children living at home. This of course is assuming that the $2 per 1,000 gallons will not increase exponentially as water becomes scarce due to drought and contamination by farming, pollution, runoff and sewage.

In many ways, conserving water now is a way for payoff in the future. Being good stewards of the resources we have now will mean that we’ll continue to enjoy those resources at a low cost in the future. Not flushing every time isn’t the only way you can save water at the toilet. You can multiply savings a few other ways as well.

First, check for leaks in your toilet. A few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank will tell you if you have a leak. If the color comes through in the bowl after 15 to 20 minutes, then there is a leak and fixing the leak can save 1,000 gallons or $2 a month or $24 a year. It’s an easy fix that most likely involves replacing the valve seal. A brick or plastic bottle filled with sand and sunk into the tank will displace water, which means there will be less in the tank and less water per flush. You can replace an old toilet from a four to seven gallon model to an efficient one and a half gallon model. I like the European model toilets that are tankless and allow you to have a “big” flush button and “little” flush button to address the issue of not always needing a huge flush.

Here are some tips for refraining from flushing and saving water on bathroom use:

  • Don’t be grossed out. The mellow yellow approach is best saved for in home use. As long as you’re home by yourself or with family members who are all on board with the practice, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit and not being offended by it. Have a rule for flushes, like every other pee or every three pees so the yellow and TP don’t collect excessively. When guests are over, social convention kicks in with toilet flushing, unless you are in a drought area and comfortable explaining the limited flush model. Remember pee is sterile. Obviously anything besides pee should be flushed.
  • Don’t run the water at the sink or shower. Don’t wait for the water to get hot, jump right in or start to wash right away. A little wake up isn’t bad. Some people end their shower with a cold blast of water as a health aid to improve alertness. Or change your shower head to a low flow model. My family has one where you can shut the water off at the shower head as you soap up and shampoo. If you have a warm bathroom, it’s not unpleasant to skip being under the running water the whole time.
  • Consider graywater. Why use fresh water for toilets? Some people ask this and say don’t. Graywater is the water runoff from showers, sinks, dishwashers, ect. Anything that is not sewage from toilets. If you are constructing new or doing major renovation, look into recycling graywater into your toilets so the household water flows from the freshwater sources into toilet use, which eliminates wasting fresh water on toilet flushes. You can even use graywater for irrigation outside.
  • You’ll be saving your septic and sewage. Saving on water in the bathroom means that your septic or sewage system won’t get overloaded with water. This means less to go wrong and less overflow contamination of other freshwater sources.
  • Don’t think it doesn’t apply to you. I don’t pay for water, I don’t own a home, my water is included in rent… whatever the reason that you think you don’t pay for water, you do. It’s part of the cost of living whether you feel it or not.




#894 Love Your Spatula

13 May

Is spatulize a word? If not, it’s the word I made up to to indicate an “empty” jar is not empty. I can spatulize it and get what I need. No running to the grocery store or doing without. Here is a demonstration from today’s lunch:

This jar of peanut butter…

jar of peanut butter

Is NOT empty…

empty jar of peanut butter

Enter the spatula…

red silicone spatula

I prefer a good quality, silicone spatula that really gets the job done…

spatual and peanut butter

Enough peanut butter after spatulizing…

spatula with peanut butter

To put on a slice of cinnamon-raisin bread…

cinnamon raisin bread and peanut butter

Because that’s all I have…

And some jam that also needs a little spatula love…

peanut butter and jam


peanut butter and jelly

A scraped together, strange sandwich calls for excessively nice china…

peanut butter sandwich on china

Limoges, to be exact…

limoges china stamp

The first half of the sandwich was much nicer than I thought it would be…Kids would like this for sure….

peanut butter and jelly sandwich


If you would like to feed this starving artist, donate here. I promise to use a spatula to get the most of the jar of peanut butter your donation will provide.